BAGHDADÂ â€”Â The top U.S. general for Iraq said Monday the country’s national election was a milestone on the way to a full pullout of U.S. combat troops by September 1 as planned.
Gen. Ray Odierno told reporters in Baghdad that most of the about 96,000 troops currently in Iraq will remain here though May, when the military will begin scaling down to 50,000 noncombat troops by the Obama administration’s self-imposed deadline at the start of September. The timetable calls for all troops to be out by the end of 2011.
“Unless there’s a catastrophic event, we don’t see that changing,” Odierno said. “We believe we’re right on track for that. We think this is another milestone.”
Odierno says that as of now, every sign points to Iraq being able to peacefully form a new government in coming months.
The parliamentary elections Sunday will determine whether Iraq can overcome deep sectarian divides that almost tore it apart and usher in a new government as U.S. forces prepare to leave. Iraqis voted despite a wave of attacks â€” some of them directly on voters and polling stations â€” that killed 36 people.
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